Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two great things together

...Can form one of the worst creations in the history of humankind.

I'm Canadian, therefore, I play and love hockey. I'm also a nerd, so I love comics and super heroes. Between those two interests, I have no idea how I missed this travesty. (I assume it's because I avoid the NHL All-Star game like the plague) I'm now struggling to figure out if this is the most awesomely horrid cross-promotion I've ever seen, or if it is a brilliant plan designed to suck out the final remnants of pride left in the game of hockey.

The NHL Guardians, presented by Stan Lee. Superheroes based on hockey teams? How could this possibly go awry?

I found a second video that is way overlong but shows all 30 Guardians in glorious computer rendering, and it helpfully points out each champion's super powers:

In case you don't want to watch the videos, I will note that there are a few things that were worth braving the hideous concept:

The Montreal Canadien looks like a red-themed Cobra Commander. Awesome!

The Vancouver Canuck looks like Batman, but with an orca fin on his head. Appropriately moronic for a Vancouver mascot!

I was disappointed to see the Islander doesn't look like Captain Highliner, and strangely, the Edmonton Oiler has a skill called "environmental empathy." Is that like "ethical oil"?

Clearly, there's no idiotic level that the NHL will not stoop to in an attempt to sell it's "product." Can we please get rid of Bettman, or at least request the league fire the current crop of ten year olds running the marketing department?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On this day...

Ninety-five years ago, my grandfather was born in a small Canadian prairie town. He died this year, just under seven months short of his 95th birthday.

As I got older, I learned that he wasn't the perfect person I thought he was in my youth when he was spoiling me like his golden child. Despite this, he passed away with more friends than any other man I've known. He also still turned out to be my hero, even though he was one of the most obstinate, opinionated jerks I've ever met. The best champions are always the flawed ones, anyways.

We miss you, Earl. This whiskey's for you.

All dressed up...

Christopher Hitchens has died.

Love him or hate him (and I'd suggest a lot more people despised him than adored him), he was hard to ignore.

Hitch was a gifted wordsmith, and even though I disagreed with him on a great many subjects (outside of his atheism), I found it difficult to ignore his opinions. At any rate, the world is a lot less witty after losing him.

Good? Evil? Awesome?

My wife sent me this the other day, and I think it's definitely worth passing along:

She's got good taste in humour and men!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We are the 99% (of Tolkien Fans)

And as such, we should all support the Occupy movement, since we understand what happens when a great evil threatens the whole of Middle Earth.

(Thanks, Jamison Weiser)

If I were twelve years old...

I would think that full-size MarioKart karts would be awesome. Thankfully, I have the mentality of a twelve-year old when it comes to classic video games, so I do actually love this video. Let's get those out of the showroom and onto the track and check out the performance! How long until these make it into the production line?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Token monthly post

To the family members that continue to forward right-wing talking points, ridiculously outlandish stories, or emotional pleas to forward emails to raise awareness for a missing child/horrendous disease/conspiracy theory despite my varying snarky responses or links to Snopes, please accept the following video response. Remember it every time your cursor hovers above that Fwd button.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monthly update

I can't believe October is almost gone already, and without a single post yet! New content has been so sparse, it's starting to look like George's blog around here.

My excuse? I've just been crazy busy lately, playing hockey three times a week and, thanks to a huge phone project at work, spending at least one evening working overtime until 10 PM every week since the start of the month.

The phone project runs until the end of November, but I might quit one of my hockey leagues to free up an extra night, so hopefully I can get back to posting at least semi-regularly.

I've got a long way to go before I can catch up to some of the other blogging freaks out there, who manage to hold down full-time jobs, spend time with their families, play video games, immerse themselves in artistic hobbies, and still find the time to comment on substantial subjects at least two or three times a day. Maybe I just need to up my posting volume to 95% cute animal video filler. Right Jason?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

History will never be the same

I enjoy looking at old hand-drawn reproductions of cities and environments. Besides admiring the artistic talent required to create the pictures, viewing them is a method of traveling back in time to see what places may have looked like, letting you compare how human "progress" can affect the world around us. We can also gain insight into how people from those times viewed the events happening around them, evidenced by the number of recreations of disasters. These drawings remind us of the risks associated with carving a living from the planet, and can act as a warning that destruction can strike at any time, and sometimes from some unexpected sources.

Who could forget the Chicago Fire?
Or the trampling of Pittsburgh?
These images, and more, are available as prints from Mega Lazors. It's history, only geekier.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adventures in all grain brewing

Apologies to my four regular readers, this is another post on homebrewing.

I have now brewed four batches of all-grain beer. It's definitely a lot more work that using the beer kits that I have used since I started in January of 2010, but there's a certain pride that comes with making a foodstuff from scratch, and being able to honestly state, "I made this."

I started with two pale ales, followed by a brown ale, then back to another pale ale. I chose these recipes because they're relatively simple, and I want to get the techniques of batch sparging and boiling wort down before I progress to more difficult beer styles.

How have things progressed? Well, my first pale ale, I'm afraid to say, had all the hallmarks of rookie production. My efficiency was barely above 50% (meaning I barely got half the sugar out of my malt that I should have. I'd like to aim for 70-75%.), and my mash temperatures were too low, which probably explains why my beer only fermented about halfway before stalling. I also wound up with a lot hoppier flavour than I was expecting. It's not a big deal, since I like hoppy beers, but I just wasn't expecting it to be that bitter.

For my second pale ale, I was able to fix some issues with my mash temperatures, and I hopped it a lot lighter, but my efficiency was still floating around 60%. It fermented out fullly, and after bottling it last week, it seems to have turned out nicely. A little drier than I was expecting, but still good and within style guidelines. I racked my first, partially fermented pale ale onto this beer's "good" yeast cake, but that didn't seem to help at all.

I thought I did everything perfectly for my brown ale (although my efficiency was still around 60%) but it's fermentation has stalled halfway through, exactly like my first pale ale. This is almost a tragedy, because flavor-wise, this beer is exactly what I was aiming for. I've done a bunch of searching on the 'net and found some recommendations to fix a stalled fermentation. Hopefully it turns out.

My last pale ale, I don't know what I did different, but my efficiency hit 80%. I was expecting a starting gravity of about 1.042 and wound up with 1.054 instead. This means I was aiming for a 4.5% ABV ale, but I could wind up with a 6% ABV beverage (not that I'm complaining). I used yeast nutrient with and oxygenated the hell out of the wort, but I used a different yeast, a WYeast 1098 that that I washed from an English bitters kit I brewed in the spring. I created a starter for it to wake the yeast up, but two days into the fermentation, it doesn't look like there's a lot of activity going on. I'll measure the gravity Wednesday to see if things are progressing.

What do I think of all grain brewing thus far? Well, I love the technicality of it - there are just so many options you can change to affect the flavour of the beer, but it's almost a little overwhelming, especially when you're a rookie trying to troubleshoot problems with your fermentation. Now that the weather is getting too cold to spend six hours outside mashing and boiling, it'll be back to brewing beer kits for the winter.

I'll appreciate the simplicity of kit brewing for a bit, but I'll wager I'll be chomping at the bit to get back to all-grain in the spring.

I will, however, take suggestions on beer styles for my last all-grain beer to be brewed in 13 days' time. Any recommendations?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cross-border Raidin'

Yarr! Today be Talk Like A Pirate Day. It be apropos, too, since today, thanks to the landlubber Doc Dawg, I did find that the scurvy dog of a PriMin'ster o'Canada, Stephen "Blackheart" Harper, be happily makin' plans to be forcin' Canadian autonomy to walk the plank.

Seems th' Cons in power here been schemin' wit' the Prez o' them United States to allow the Queen's navy to cross the border soutwards, in return for allowin' the longish arm o' the Amerikin law to reach up in ta Canada, unner the guise o' chasin' down terrists an' protectin' the public from varyin' forms o'piracy. He s'posedly be doin' this inna hopes of convincin' that Republikin lap dog Obama to open up th' border to more trade. But the way the Yanks been tossin' their freedoms and due process overboard to the sharks be makin' me fear they be exportin' even more of the US-type prison system up northwards.

Seriously though, all pirate-talk aside, we all know precisely what is going to wind up happening if American police are allowed to chase criminals into Canada. American conservatives are freaking out about the thought of UN or Sharia law being implemented in the States, neither of which is even remotely possible at any point in the near (or distant) future. Ten days ago, Ed Brayton pointed out that the Patriot Act, which was supposed to allow National Security Letters and sneak & peek warrants to fight terrorism, has been used overwhelmingly in drug investigations. Seriously, it's not even close. They've been used 15 times to investigate terrorism, 122 times for fraud, and 1,618 for drugs. I expect the exact same thing to happen with allowing American police to come into Canada.

Love him or hate him, the whole Marc Emery extradition saga was a slap in the face of the authorities in the American drug war. Essentially, Marc Emery was arrested and extradited to the U.S. for sending marijuana seeds through the mail, something which is not a crime in Canada. Obviously, Canada has a slightly more relaxed attitude to drugs, especially marijuana, than the United States does. Hell, we briefly flirted with decriminalizing it in the early 2000's, until the United States flexed their muscle with the Liberal government of the time in a successful bid to kill the bill.

Stephen Harper has been working to introduce minimum sentencing rules and increase the penalties for drug offenses, especially targeting cannabis, and he's building more prisons, so one can expect that he's planning more legislation to fill those prisons. However, due to the general Canadian acceptance of cannabis use (a 2009 Angus Reid poll had 53% of Canadians agreeing with the statement, "The use of marijuana should be legalized"), it might cost him politically if he were to pursue a drug war with too much zeal.

If the Conservatives can't convince Canadians to embrace the war on drugs, the next best thing would be to almost literally import the American war on drugs into the Great White North. The ability of American drug enforcement to enter Canada while investigating drug crime is the simplest way to bring US drug law across the border.

I don't do drugs, but even the idea of that sends a chill up my spine. Most worrying: once American cops have their foot in the door, what's to stop them from expanding those powers? Once those powers are in place, what Canadian government could possibly stand up to the US government, the gatekeeper for our largest trade market who could decimate our economy in an instant by closing the border, and tell them their law enforcement is no longer welcome in Canada?

We are a hair's breadth away from becoming the 51st state in the American drug war.

Yar, even speakin' pirate-ese don't make me feel no better.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Black man hands out homemade alcohol

After almost four years of being only moderately better than a hypothetical third term of George W. Bush, and seemingly doing little to implement any seriously progressive policies, President Obama has finally given me at least one big reason to support his presidency:


Excerpt from the White House food blog:
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made culinary history when they served homebrewed White House Honey Ale, made with a pound of honey from the White House Beehive, to guests at [February's] Super Bowl Party.
I can't believe I'm just hearing about this six months late, but I have to say it's kind of neat to be able to claim I share a hobby with the President of the United States. Well okay, I technically share the hobby with the White House cooking staff, not the President himself, and for them it's actually a job, not a pastime, but at least we shared the same beer style for our first attempt at brewing!

(H/T to Balloon Juice)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Truth (in comic form)

My career in online gaming started back in 1988, playing some text-based precursor to StarCraft on a local BBS. My gaming adventures eventually wound through games like NHL '95 PVP over modems, Diablo2 on, Counterstrike, up to World Of Warcraft (all PC games, of course - as a true nerd, I don't do consoles).
Having such a lengthy history of online gaming is one of the main reasons I found this comic at the Oatmeal so compelling (click to see the whole thing):

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Compassionate Conservatism, Example # 1,232,847

President Obama to gay victims of bullying: "It gets better."

Family Research Council to those same kids: "No, it doesn't, you goddamned queers!"

Is it any wonder that North American youths are leaving Christianity in droves?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Beer, the "natural health product"

Canada, being a weird conglomeration of liberal and conservative ideals, has a lot of restrictions on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. That same conflicting set of ideals also has led to a relatively unfettered "health product and supplements" industry.

In my year and a half of brewing beer, I've had a number of people implore me to start selling my homebrew. In an admittedly cursory look into the type of licensing I'd require to begin selling my homemade suds, I've noticed that it looks like a very large and extremely pricey endeavor to obtain permission to produce and sell alcoholic products here in Canada.

Then I noticed this expired can of energy drink that was gifted to me about two months ago, which wound up being left sitting behind the speakers at my desk. Its label claims that it contains taurine, and is a "natural health product".

I hate energy drinks. They are basically over-priced sugar water with the extract of some obscure root or leaf that's supposed to either keep you awake, give you some kind of dexterity bonus, or polymorph your penis into the same shape as a tiger's genitals. Most of the herbs are pretty much benign, and of course offer no real effects other than placebo. However, labeling these drinks (not to mention a host of other herbal medicines and remedies, beyond mere sugary beverages) as "natural health products" essentially frees the manufacturer from much responsibility, especially when it comes to efficacy claims and performing tests on the product.

In Canada, natural health products are a relatively unregulated market, especially when compared to pharmaceuticals and alcohol brewing. Although there is a lot of noise coming from the alternative health industry that Bill C-36, passed in 2010, allowed the government to regulate the natural products and supplements industry a lot closer.

Typically, "health product" claims are fairly nebulous, as most snake oil salespeople always want to avoid assigning any quantifiable and testable quality to their creation that could be used against them, especially in court of law.

So here's what I'm thinking: Add ginseng, willow bark, dandelion leaves, or some other herb or additive that won't affect flavour or color to my beer, and begin marketing it as a natural health drink. Maybe I can get all the altie health nuts to join me in my crusade against government regulation of my health drink. After all, it's no more than steeped grain and herbs, infused with yeast and left to age for a month before bottling. What could be more natural than that?

Dandy Lion Pale Ale, anyone? Harnessing the twin powers of yeast and dandelions, it has been anecdotally proven to provide energy, improve joviality, maximize well-being, and has been noted to increase sexual attractiveness. Warning: consuming large quantities of this product can lead to loss of balance and social skills, vomiting and memory vacuums.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The response to every theist I've ever met

It seems like any lengthy discussion about I have with a religious person about Christianity and the Bible always contains some comment along the lines of "things are worse now than they've ever been, which is what the Bible predicted for the end times."

Thanks to SMBC, I have a much more succinct rejoinder than my usual response:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trolling for fanbois

A buddy of mine linked to this picture entitled "How to inspire Nerd Rage":

Infuriating, ain't it?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Know Thine Enemy

I'm sure it doesn't come to any surprise for anybody that knows me or has browsed this blog, but I tend to have a fair amount of discussions about religion, both online and in real life.

In meatspace, I've been having some casual discussions with a couple of Mormons, I have some religious coworkers that occasionally spark a conversation, and my wife has regular weekly visits from Jehovah's Witnesses.

One very common theme that seems to run through these discussions is that most proselytizers don't seem to have much first-hand experience attempting to convert atheists.

The most recent, and I think humourous, example was last week when the Witnesses came by to deliver their latest magazines for my wife. One of the ladies came up to the house, and her husband, waiting at the end of my driveway with a couple of his fellow religionists in his car, beckoned me to come over and talk.

After the typical pleasantries, he told me that he had a scripture that he wanted to share with me that he felt would be applicable to my "situation", since I am an atheist and don't believe in God. I've had lots of scripture thrown at me over the years, and although I was curious to see what valuable pearl of wisdom this gentleman had pulled out of the hot mess that is the Bible, I was a little confused by his selection.

He proceeded to read out James 2:19 (New World Translation), "You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder." I don't think that my facial reaction to this revelation was quite what he was expecting, so he followed up the scripture reading by commenting, "So this scripture show us that since the demons believe in God, don't you think it's reasonable that you should as well?"

I paused for a short second before I replied, "Well, no. Not really. I mean, I don't believe in the existence of demons." His friend in the back seat looked at me quizzically and commented, "Did you just say you don't believe in demons? What about angels?"

I replied, "Nope. I also don't believe in ghosts, leprechauns, and the tooth fairy."

The discussion then evolved into a short two-minute discussion on the nature of spirits and why I dismissed the existence of the spiritual, before the driver's wife returned and they had to leave to go drop off more magazines. So we said goodbye, and, as the vehicle pulled away, I couldn't help but grin widely as I returned to my deck to relax in the summer sun.

I have to admit, I found it amusing that they were so surprised that an atheist wouldn't believe in demons. Granted, atheism is not a monolithic block of beliefs, and there certainly are atheists that believe in spirits, reincarnation, and lots of other (what most skeptics would consider) ridiculous phenomenon. However, you'd think it would be a good idea to learn something about your target when you're trying to evangelize. I know I certainly wouldn't try to convince a Jehovah's Witness that their religion is incorrect by performing a thorough and blistering critique of transubstantiation.

But then, what do I know? I'm just an atheist.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Behind the Black Horizon

My family experienced its third death in just over the last two months just over two weeks ago. The string of unfortunate circumstances (which should qualify as the pathetic understatement of 2011) started with my grandfather (on my father's side) passing away from natural causes at the end of May. Two weeks later, a cousin on my mother's side committed suicide. Fifteen days ago, the husband of one of my mother's sisters passed away from a heart attack in his sleep.

Three funerals in nine weeks has pushed me to post on what death means to me, an atheist.

What is death? Quite simply, death is the permanent interruption of the chemical process that we recognize as "life". Essentially, death is a part of existence on this planet of ours. We might be able to use medical and other technologies to lengthen our life spans and delay death, but it is an inevitability for each and every human. Large amounts of resources are dedicated to research into figuring out if technology will allow us to live forever, but I'm not so certain that eternal existence wouldn't be as much of a curse as a blessing.

So what do I think happens after we die? I haven't encountered any good evidence that leads me to believe in life after death. Consciousness is brought about by the electrical impulses of our nervous system, which is fed by a series of chemical reactions, which is in turn fueled by the food we take in. Any breakdown of that chain of reactions means the brain will cease functioning and die. I see no possible means by which those electrical impulses that form our personalities can survive outside of the device (our bodies) that houses them. I had no experiences from before my brain formed and began functioning, and I expect to return to that state of nonexistence after my body dies and decomposes.

I've been told by some people that this seems like such a bleak outlook, and that the idea of heaven (or reincarnation, the "New System", or becoming a part of the universe's "life force", etc) or any other type of afterlife in which they are reunited with their loved ones gives them the strength to go on in the face of such loss. At best, this seems like wishful thinking to me, and at worst, I find that it strips life of much of its meaning.

The idea that this life is nothing more than a precursor to an eternity of pleasure seems to childish way to deal with pain and suffering. I'm surrounded by religious family members that seem to dwell constantly on how terrible life is, and instead of working to improve their lives (or the lives of those around them), they are almost obsessed with how awesome it will be to die and find themselves in Paradise, or they express their sincere hope that Jesus will return and they'll never have to feel the sting of death at all. This even goes so far that one family member won't offer any ideas on what he'd like to have done at his funeral, because he's convinced he is never going to need one.

To me, that is a bleak outlook on life. The idea that the pleasures of this short life we live will pale to the perfect life we'll be blessed with after we die cheapens the entire experience we have on our little planet. For an analogy, imagine, if you will, that you spend hours toiling to make enough money to purchase or craft a thoughtful gift that you hope a loved one will appreciate very much. When the time comes to deliver the package, you are practically tingling with excitement as you hand them their gaily wrapped present. As they tear the wrappings off half-heartedly, you hope to see their faces light up with joy at that item you've worked so hard to obtain for them. Instead, your loved one looks at the object, then at you, then back to the gift. They shrug their shoulders and say, "Not bad, but Uncle Gerry is going to give me a much better one next year. See how flimsy this is, and notice how the paint doesn't match up here? The one I'll get later is going to be so much more perfect than this piece of thing." Yet when people talk of how wonderful the afterlife is going to be, this is what I think of.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that life is certainly far from ideal, and we in North America have it better than most humans have ever had life, but to gloss over the best that life has to offer in order to focus on the blemishes and spend most of your life wishing for perfection seems like such a waste.

So, if I don't hold to the fantasy that I'll ever see my friends or family again, how do I deal with it when my loved ones die? Quite simply, I recognize what it means when somebody passes away: I will never see them again. Hopefully, I have many cherished memories of that person, and some lessons in life that they've taught me, making my life that much richer for having known them. Those thoughts will help to carry me through the pain of losing a person I cared for.

Again, an analogy: a while back I did a bunch of work, toiling for a couple of hours to make some money, for which I had plans. Unfortunately, shortly after I received that money, it fell out of my pocket and I was unable to recover it. I didn't start fantasizing that once I died, I'd be rewarded with great riches in order to make myself feel better for losing that money. Instead, I merely resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be able to fulfill my plans that I'd had for that money, and instead found other ways to compensate for the loss.

Death is loss, albeit on a much more intense level. Losing a small amount of money is disappointing, while losing a loved one can be crushing. It is terrible to have to lose someone you care deeply about, but I find that the pain in feeling that loss is also a bit of a comfort, because the intensity of the sense of loss is an indicator of just how valuable that person was.

The worst part about the death of a loved one is that the universe continues to coldly unravel, regardless of the losses we humans encounter here on our rocky outpost called Earth. The whole planet does not grind to a halt to mourn for anyone. But for me, death serves as a reminder and the impetus to cherish and strengthen those relationships with family and friends that I do have.

Now, please excuse me, but I have to go call my Mom to see how she'd doing and tell her I love her.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Photographic awesomeness

I just saw this shared on Weird Al's Twitter account (note: I don't actually follow Twitter, I just saw a link and had to click on it):

How awesome is that? Weird Al, John "Bermuda" Schwartz, Tim Minchin, Garfunkel & Oates, and Bo Burnham all together in one room - and they're all undead!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I don't believe in god

The New Statesman has an article that consists of a collection of statements by an array of people who doubt the existence of god or gods. It is definitely worth reading, but I recently had a not-so-subtle reminder of why I don't believe in god.

My wife was flipping channels, and came upon a documentary on PBS about life on planet Earth. The show had just begun talking about the relationship between predators and prey. During this segment, there was one scene that was only up for about five seconds, displaying a young gazelle that had been felled and was being devoured by two lions. It was still alive, looking back over it's shoulder and pathetically flailing it's front hooves at the two lions that had torn open its belly and were already feasting upon the flesh of the small animal.

A horrific scene, but necessary for the lions to continue living. Scenes similar to it are played out thousands (if not millions) of times per day, from spiders feasting on insects, to housecats toying with baby birds for sport (this happened in my back yard on Monday - I discovered a neighbor's cat had been chewing on a featherless chick near my shed), to piranha consuming other fish alive. This has been going on for hundreds of millions of years, and will likely continue until our sun runs out of fuel and expands to the point where it envelops the Earth.

Who could possibly be so naive as to believe that a benevolent, caring god would create a system that requires so much pain and suffering?

*Edited to include the link to the New Statesman article that I neglected to insert

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making the jump

After a year and a half of brewing beer using Brew House, Coopers, and Muntons beer kits, it looks like I'm edging towards the laborious exercise of all-grain brewing. It will turn brew day from an hour or two of light work (an hour for Brew House kits, two for Coopers/Muntons kits) into an all-day exercise of grain mashing and wort boiling. However, it grants me full control over what I'm producing, and allows me to say with pride (or shame, if I turn out a horrible beer), "I made this." No longer will I have to pretend that I did more than take somebody else's work and throw some yeast on it, then keg/bottle the results. I will now be horribly responsible for pretty much every step along the way (short of growing and preparing my own grain, hops, and yeast, of course).

This weekend I'll be making a mash tun out of a relatively new beer cooler, and picking up twenty-five feet of 3/8 inch copper tubing with which to fashion an immersion chiller. Once I have those two items, I'll order in some base and specialty malts, as well as pick up some hops. Then, the experimentation begins!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hockey Nerds?

It's no secret I love hockey and computers, and other than looking up stats online, I rarely get the opportunity to enjoy both of them together. Let's just say that when I'm strapping on the goalie pads in the dressing room, very few of the guys on the team get the point of my Splunk "I see dead servers" t-shirt.

So when I heard Mike Commodore had signed up with the Detroit Red Wings, I had to smile when I heard that he might try to use his name and choice of jersey number to stir up a little geek humour. He tweeted that he was thinking of debuting the number sixty-four with his new team this season.

What nerd worth his salt wouldn't enjoy seeing this circle around on the ice?

Puck Daddy has started a pledge drive to try and convince Mike to use that number for the 2011-12 season. So far they've received pledges of over three thousand dollars that they're offering to donate to a charity of Commodore's choice if he uses that number. I might just cough up US$64 (what's that in Canadian dollars these days - 20 bucks?) and actually watch a Red Wings game to see that jersey in the NHL!

H/T to Mike Brownstein.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Somebody check the crawl space...

...Under Michele Bachman's house. Apparently she confused John Wayne, the actor, with John Wayne Gacy, the killer clown.

My wife is STILL laughing about that.

H/T Let Freedom Rain.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 Stanley Cup Champs

Congratulations go to the Boston Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup tonight by defeating the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 3-0 in game seven of the NHL Stanley Cups Finals at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC.

Jeers go to the Vancouver Canucks, whose fans have spent the last two hours since Roberto Lungo's weak goaltending cost Vancouver their potential first championship trashing businesses, burning cars and furniture, and destroying the respectability of their city.

I'm not a Canucks fan, but I cheered them on in 1994 when they were a crossbar away from winning the Stanley Cup in game seven against the New York Rangers. After losing in New York, Vancouver fans also rioted and destroyed a section of their hometown.

Once is a fluke, twice is a trend. I won't again cheer for a team whose fans are such poor losers.

Stay classy, Vancouver.

(PS: I just hope those riotous idiots don't destroy the best place in Vancouver to down a couple of pints of microbrew beer, The Alibi Room)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

All Quiet on the Western Front

It's been almost a month since my last post, and for once, I have good reason. I had begun working on a couple of posts, but something important occurred that overshadowed everything else, made me put life on hold for a week, and prevented me from caring about the blog for another week after that.

My grandfather died on May 28th after 94 years of squeezing everything he could out of life.

I was really close with my granddad, even more so than with my actual father. There's a whole history there that I won't disclose here, because it's not all that interesting and because pouring out my pain to strangers on the internet isn't why I started blogging.

Suffice it to say that he was a great man and I'll miss him terribly. He fought in WWII, was injured three times while there, returning to the front to fight alongside his mates each time. He didn't talk much about his experiences there, but when lubricated with a little whiskey or beer, the tales would flow.

However, he was a lot more than a mere Bren machine gunner, helping to bring a halt to the Nazi menace in Europe. He was a fighter and a charmer at the same time, and although he was incredibly opinionated, he was always surrounded by friends and family. He could remember the name of somebody that he'd met once ten years previously, and wherever he went he always ran into one or two people to have a friendly chat with.

He was a hard worker, and played hard as well. He was always ready and available to help any friends or family members that needed assistance. He was always busy, but always made time for people. He was happiest when having a beer, offering up some anecdote about the past to those around him.

I'm not going to recreate the goodbye that I read out at his funeral, despite the fact that my wife says that I should put it up here. Maybe someday, but not today.

I just wanted to say my grandfather was my hero, and I miss him. The gates of Valhalla opened up a couple of weeks ago to welcomed the arrival of a Celtic warrior.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Surprising? Nope.

Well, here it is, midnight PST, making it past seven PM in New Zealand, yet it looks like Harold Camping's apocalypse is at least an hour late.

It's amusing that after two thousand years of failed predictions, people are still expecting the Jewish Zombie Apocalypse (you know, Jesus returning to the Earth). Harold Camping was able to put together an advertising campaign with over three million dollars in donated cash. Three million dollars that could have gone to something important, like (as Jesus commanded) feeding the hungry or clothing the poor. It's disheartening to see such large numbers of people willing to waste their lives and huge amounts of resources in the vain attempt to warn people of imaginary dangers, especially when we risk catastrophe from real perils like climate change, pollution, disease, reliance on non-renewable resources, etc.

Attempting to get people to worry about the consequences of tossing out a few bits of plastic becomes that much more difficult when they're terrified that hidden demons or dragons are chomping at the bit, waiting for the signal that will free them to unleash waves of disease, suffering, and death upon the entire populace of the Earth, save for an invariably small number of "true believers" who will be magically protected from the apocalypse.

People have such short memories that they cannot recall the hundreds, if not thousands, of failed predictions regarding the apocalypse. What will it take to convince humankind to abandon superstition pushed by con men and begin to recognize the real problems that we face as a species on this planet?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In which I increase my Nerd Cred

I managed to run of to Kamloops on Saturday to catch PZ Myers in the final talk of the Imagine No Religion conference hosted by the Kamloops Centre For Rational Thought and Center For Inquiry Okanagan.

While there I managed to snag a few photos:

PZ was dressed up to enjoy the err... warm-ish late spring weather. He's much less tentacled and fiery in person than he appears on Pharyngula.

Jen McCreight of Blag Hag was showing her preparedness for the after-party.

I even managed to obtain proof that God exists! Mr. Deity (aka Brian Keith Dalton) was very pleasant, and not at all as temperamental an immortal as I was expecting.

I also met the president of the Center For Inquiry Okanagan, and was invited to check out their post-rapture party, and was informed that they'll soon be hosting a talk by a scientific ghost hunter. That could be interesting. (Spoiler alert: he hasn't found any evidence of spiritual activity yet!)

Even though I missed almost all of the conference, I got a chance to chat with a handful of participants for a short while, meeting skeptics from Edmonton, southern BC, and even Philadelphia. I'll definitely try to make the next organized meeting in the area.

I'll also bring a better camera than the crappy one built into my Blackberry.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Of all the stupid...

Damn it! Due to my inability to read dates on a website, I missed PZ Myers giving a talk over in Kamloops last night!

I wonder if I can sneak into his talk tonight at 7PM? Unfortunately, there isn't a phone number I can call to check, and I don't think I'm going to risk driving two hours to be turned away at the door.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Return of the VIC

Odin. My. God.

The eight-year old kid in me just had a massive nerdgasm. I know, that sounds completely inappropriate, but I can't think of any other way to describe my reaction when I saw this:

The Commodore 64 is back in production. It's been updated of course. The internals include an Intel Atom dual-core 1.8 GHz processor, up to 4 Gb RAM, NVidia ION2 512Mb on-board graphics, and Ethernet, SATA with RAID 0, 1, JBOD. Unfortunately, there is no tape drive, just a slot or tray-load DVD (Blu-ray optional) drive on the left side.

The O/S is Ubuntu 10.4, and they claim that Windows can be also run on the hardware, but you'll have to purchase it separately, of course. Most awesome of all, the operating system supports an 8-bit Commodore emulator (selectable at bootup or run from within Ubuntu), allowing us older nerds to reminisce about the old days of spending (what felt like) hours typing in BASIC commands in order to get the screen to print out "Hello, world!"

They will also be bringing out updated versions of the Amiga as well. I'll probably never pick up either unit, but it's fun just having a look for the nostalgia value.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Scenes From My Youth: Now Orchestrated!

Last week I finally received the opportunity to spend time in the company of a couple thousand fellow nerds when I dragged the wife along to Video Games Live in Vancouver. (Truth be told, my woman watched the PBS special on VGL and immediately demanded that her next birthday present be the chance to see it in person. I can't say I was disappointed to hear that.)

We arrived in Vancouver and dropped off our belongings (and dog) at our hotel a couple of blocks from the concert, ate dinner, then walked on over to the show venue an hour before curtain time.

The building was full of nerds, LARPers, geeks, gamers, role playing gamers, goths, and all the other societal misfits that you expect at such an event. From what I saw the ages ranged from ten to about early-to-mid forties, revealing that I was truly amongst my element.

The show started with a costume contest that had about nine people dressed up as various video game characters. As the contestants walked out on the stage, they were led a couple of girls in spandex outfits, dressed up as Psylocke and Rogue from the X-Men, and I immediately assumed they would win the contest. Girls in tight clothes, dressed up like popular comic book characters - how could they lose? However, the judge of the contest was the crowd, which was filled with video game nerds, not regular people. The winner of the competition was selected by who could prompt the loudest cheers from the audience. Although the superheroines placed well, they were ousted by the mob's favorite costume: a tall, lanky kid dressed up in a pretty good recreation of Altaïr ibn La-Ahad from Assassin's Creed. Other noteable costumes were a young woman dressed up as Tifa from FFVII, a gentleman with an imaginative splicer costume from Bioshock, Doctor Mario, and a very well done Link from Legend Of Zelda.

The music began with in medly of early video games, starting with Pong, then moving on to classic music from Space Invaders, Asteriods, Pac-Man, Tank, Defender, Frogger, Battlezone, Centipede, Guantlet, Ghosts 'N Goblins, and a whole range of arcade games from Dragon's Lair to Outrun. I lost track of the huge number of games represented during this montage.

What followed was a grand collection of orchestrated music (with a choir performing vocal work) from some of the greatest video game franchises in gaming history, including Mario Bros, Castlevania, the Legend Of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, God Of War, Tetris, World Of Warcraft, Sonic The Hedgehog, Halo, Street Fighter II, Final Fantasy, and Silent Hill.

Interspersed between the longer songs played by the symphony were short video clips such as mashups (Donkey Kong vs. Mortal Kombat was my favorite) and top ten lists of the worst video game titles and most painful voice acting in a game.

There were also solo performances, with video game pianist Martin Leung playing the theme from Super Mario Brothers while blindfolded, followed by a medly of music from the Final Fantasy series. Laura Intravia played a suite of themes from the Legend Of Zelda on her flute (while dressed up as Link, and competing against Navi, a doll attached to her shoulder by a wire).

There were so many musical standouts from the show that it was difficult to select a favorite. The God Of War theme, accompanied by video clips from the series, was every bit as epic and intense as the games themselves. Laura Intravia crafted an amazing performance as Lady Silvanas during Lament Of The Highborne from World Of Warcraft. One Winged Angel from FFVII was every bit as spectacular live as someone coule hoped for. Finally, the second encore to finish off the evening was Tommy Talarico and Laura hosting an enjoyable sing-along with the crowd to Still Alive from Portal.

There were lots of entertaining non-musical moments that were worth noting, as well. Tommy had people hold up their cell phones instead of lighters to show support for a slower song, when he noticed somebody in the back waving a laptop. When it was pointed out the machine was a Mac, the crowd booed loudly, and Tommy commented, "You can't play games on that, can you?" There were funny and timely catchphrases and commentary called out from the crowd as well, such as "The cake is a lie!" as the intro video to Still Alive began; another person lamented "My car!" at the end of the Frogger Vs Grand Theft Auto mashup; and (in response to Tommy stating that "some people believe video games cause violence"), "Kill those people!"

My wife and I both enjoyed ourselves, and will attend VGL again at some point. It was nice to spend an evening reminiscing about the games I played growing up, presented in a relatively mature manner. Although gaming has become much more mainstream than when I was young, and I certainly can't devote the same amount of playing time and effort I used to give games, it was still nice to share the experience of classic and new gaming with a small horde of fellow video game lovers.

If you're a video game geek and you haven't experienced Video Games Live, I recommend heading to a show, or at least taking a peek at it on PBS or Youtube.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What would make me believe (in Jesus)?

George posted a link to a theist website that asks three questions of atheists. I assembled this post in my head before I read George's (and anybody else's) reply, so that it wouldn't colour my own response too much.

Question one: What would it take, or what would have to happen for you to abandon your position of atheism and come to a theistic view; not just an agnostic possibility of God, but an actual belief that a Deity does exist?

Good, reproducible evidence is pretty much the only thing I can request here.

I can't really consider unexplained phenomena as evidence for God, because history has shown us that events humans used to consider as only explainable by premising deities turned out to actually require no divine interference. Unfortunately, the more we seem to examine the universe in detail, it seems that any version of a god, other than the nebulous "prime mover" that originally sparked the creation of the universe, seems completely unnecessary and more and more unlikely.

For the same reasons, I consider miracles to be poor manifestation of a God's existence. Ignorance of the cause of a certain unlikely occasion is not evidence for anything other than... ignorance.

I'd like to say that personal revelation would be nice - maybe the clouds parting, and a booming voice announcing to me that it was the creator of the universe. But I'm too aware of the weaknesses of the human mind, and that such a thing would most likely be a result of a psychotic episode. Otherwise, how could I be sure that my experience was more realistic than that of Mohammed, Joseph Smith, or any run-of-the-mill schizophrenic?

Question two: What would it take for you to believe Christianity is true?

Which version of Christianity? There are over five thousand different sects of Christianity, which makes this question a little too simplistic to answer accurately.

For instance, whatever evidence that might convince me that Jesus was an actual historical figure that was able to come back from the dead after a couple of days of actual death and and decomposition would have to be coupled with a enough evidence to overthrow pretty much all of modern science to show that the universe is less than 10,000 years old and that the myth of Noah's ark actually happened for me to believe in any of the myriad of young earth, biblical literalist Christianities.

Question three: Why would your answers to the above be sufficient to convince you theism is true, and that Christianity was true?

Like gravity, wavelengths of radiation outside of our ability to detect them with our natural senses, and dark matter, it all comes down to the evidence.

As an atheist, I have a natural inclination to require more evidence for religious claims (not just Christian claims, mind you, but from all religions) than might be fair. Because of this, I figure the most reasonable I can be would be to require the same kind of evidence that I'd request before I believe that intelligent aliens are visiting Earth in technologically advanced spaceships.

If a UFO landed on our planet and the inhabitants of the vessel made contact with a large swath of humans, including media and scientists, and gave us a reproducible explanation of their origins, how they arrived on Earth, etc., I would have a difficult time denying the existence of intelligent aliens.

If God wants to visit us, making himself available to the media and scientists, giving us a scientifically valid and confirmable explanation for how the universe works, the origins of life, and human history, then it would also be difficult to deny his existence.

I appreciate what seems to be a non-judgmental request for information from atheists about their beliefs, but these three questions seem to me to be missing one very valuable point: the Christian God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Even if I don't know what would convince me that He exists, Yahweh does, and he supposedly has the power to make me aware of his existence. That He has refused to do so, even though I actively sought Him out for a number of years in my life, is among the best evidence that God doesn't exist. At the very least, He doesn't seem interested in spending eternity with me, and, in return, I couldn't care less about Him.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why democracy is ultimately doomed

On Saturday I went in to work for the seventh day in a row in order to finalize our Cisco telephony inplementation (short story: it went well, everything looks to be working well, thus far).

While eating our butter chicken, rice and Naan bread we ordered for lunch from the best Indian restaurant in town, I overheard two of my coworkers chatting about one of the candidates for local office. One guy said, "he seems like a pretty good guy." The other responded, "dude, he taught my nephew karate. I'd totally vote for that guy."

Since I can't keep my nose out of discussions that don't necessarily concern me, I interjected, "What are his policies? Is he conservative, liberal, or what?" My inquiry was met with embarrassed silence, so I pressed further, "So you're telling me you'd vote for a guy when you don't know anything he actually plans to do if he grabs the reins of power? It's enough to think you'd want to drink a beer with him?" A different coworker tossed in the helpful comment, "Why not? It worked so well for the Americans with George W!"

Sadly, this seems typical for most people. They can tell you the intimate details of the latest indiscretions of dozens of celebrities, but they don't know the policies of a politician they'd be willing to vote for.

I guess the one saving grace is that neither of those coworkers are likely to actually vote. Still, it's no wonder that sociopathic assholes are able to dominate in politics the way they have these past few years.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Irish Day!

It's on this day, March 17th, that certain parts of the world celebrate everything Irish. Mostly for an excuse to drink alcohol, since that's apparently the most Irishness of activities.

It's also a day that those of us with any amount of Irish heritage can pretend that we're 100% Irish, so long as there are no actual Irishmen around to point out we're not really Irish. I'm fully aware that I can't live up to the Irish stereotypes of having the gift of gab, being able to remain coherent standing semi-conscious after consuming massive quantities of liquor, and being willing to fight over the tiniest of minor insults, but that doesn't mean I can't heft a pint of stout and hail the old Emerald Isle tonight!

The best thing about St. Patrick's Day, however, is that it also gives me a chance to show off a picture of my grandfather who gave me my Irish last name, and since I'm his only grandkid that shares that name with him, it makes me his favorite by default. I'll be celebrating the heritage he granted to me by imbibing a little whiskey and the last bottle of my first stout that I brewed and bottled last February.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Under the trailer park lights

I have a personal anecdote to add to George's post about what seems to be a common pastime for some people: being discovered passed out in their cars from alcohol overindulgence in places that are relatively distant from where the driver obviously departed from (especially McDonald's drive-thru lanes).

Dude, I grew up in low-income apartments and trailer parks - these stories are fucking common.

Seriously, about a month ago, I was leaving for work and discovered a car parked across the small road that leads from my local neighborhood to the main road. I was forced to drive around this Dodge Caliber that was idling in the street, almost getting stuck in the two feet of frozen snow that had been plowed onto the sides of the road the night before. As I pulled up close, I realized that the vehicle that I'd thought was empty was actually occupied. I could see the driver leaning way over into the passenger seat.

I drove past and turned to head up the street on my way to work, when I figured I'd better check to see if this guy was actually okay. I pulled over to the side of the road, got out and walked back to the car to make sure the driver wasn't hurt. I looked in the open driver door window to see the driver had his seat belt on and was doubled over into the passenger seat. His left hand was hanging out his window with an empty Nestle Crunch wrapper held in it, while his right hand was wrapped around a generic gas station paper coffee cup in his lap.

I asked him if he was okay, with no discernible response. I yelled at him and received more silence in return. I grabbed his arm and shook him very strongly, and he barely even flinched. I didn't notice the smell of alcohol, so I was worried that the guy might have had a heart attack, entered a diabetic coma, or had some other health issue. I should have remembered that I was inside a trailer park.

I called my wife (since he was only 50 meters from my house) and asked her to contact emergency services to check in on this guy so that I could head off to work. My wife came out to watch over the driver while the fire department and an ambulance made their way to the scene. She pinched him hard and he flinched a bit, but didn't stir. My wife grabbed the coffee cup to keep the man from spilling it on himself and immediately noticed the strong smell of booze. The cup had a small amount of what was probably whiskey in it.

Interestingly enough, as soon as the flashing lights from the emergency vehicles arrived, the guy came fully alert. I guess police arriving to assist when you've passed out while drinking and driving has a way of sobering a person up quickly. Especially after the BC government recently passed some of the harshest DUI penalties in Canada.

At first I was worried that the guy would be okay, because I hadn't realized he was merely drunk. After I found out he was driving hammered, I began hoping that the cops would nail him to the wall, since he was obviously so inebriated that he could have killed somebody and not even noticed.

My only regret? I should have snapped some photos of the dipshit to spread around the internet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My teen years distilled

In a Lance Mannion post about him attempting to educate his young boys about comic books and lessons about life, he made a comment that I think perfectly represents me in my Christian teenage years:
I wanted to tell them that the world is full of young men who are afraid of everything. They are afraid of women, of sex, of their own urges and desires. They are afraid of other men. They are afraid of what they might be themselves. They are afraid they are weak, useless, powerless. And when people who are this afraid dream, they dream of not being afraid, but their dreams aren’t of achieving self-command and of gaining mastery of over their fears. Their dreams are of instilling fear. They dream of gaining power over what makes them afraid.

I hate to take a quote out of context but I'm a terrible writer, which is why I have to find people who are good at the wordsmithing trade, so that I can steal their descriptions of the world around me. This is a perfect distillation of how I remember my teenage years: being afraid of fucking everything.

Oh sure, like most teenagers I had attitude, snark, and more than a hint of belligerence oozing out my pores (which really hasn't changed in the sixteen years since), but as most adults can admit at some point in their lives, it was all youthful bluster. Keeping everyone else at arms length, seeming at the verge of a violent outburst at the slightest provocation, and making fun of anything and everything was a coping mechanism - a method of covering up inexperience, ignorance, fear, and a little bit of stupidity by offending anyone and everyone around you, in the hope that they don't examine you too closely, lest they discover the child hiding in the flesh of a young adult.

Christianity, at that point in my life, offered some solace. After all, if your invisible friend is the creator of the entire universe, the deity that drowned the entire populace of the world save for eight of his chosen people, and the galactic emperor that will soon slay all those who oppose him, it helps to alleviate some of the apprehension about stepping out to make your mark in the world.

Unfortunately, experience can slowly reveal to the observant that the great sky fairy doesn't have your back and, indeed, seems to be perfectly absent - almost as though he was never really there to begin with. It slowly began to dawn upon me that the driving force that helped me through the difficult times in my life were my own strengths, buttressed by support and advice from family and friends.

At any rate, Lance outlined possibly the greatest reason why I wouldn't ever desire to relive my teenage years again: since high school, I've learned that fear doesn't have to be the default reaction to change or uncertainty.

Oh, and if you're not following the writings of Lance Mannion yet, do yourself a favor and head on over there. I've stolen so many ideas from him that the least I can do is send one or two people to browse his writing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Google can be used for evil

I was reading a news alert in GMail regarding Rupert Murdoch placing a bid to buy a large UK media company, when this advert popped up:
The Ultimate Tea Party - - The Patriot’s Toolbox is the #1 source for Tea Party activists
Targeted advertising? Not working so well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I second that motion

I was reading an interesting post over at Dispatches From The Culture Wars about a virulently anti-gay preacher who was arrested for masturbating in his vehicle parked next to a children's playground.

Hearing about the hypocrisy of people like that isn't much of a surprise, but what I really liked was one certain comment in the thread below Ed's post:

The only hostility I feel towards Christianity or any organized religion, is premised upon the fact that some are so arrogant as to believe they have the right to not only criticize law abiding citizens for being different, but the power to force us to conform to their ways. Gay people never show up at my house early in the morning trying to convert me to homosexuality. Gay people never try to take my civil rights away or my human rights away due to my gender as a female, Gay people do not assume the worst about me because I am not Gay, nor act as if I must have been born stupid because I do not accept their homosexuality as if that were the one true path to salvation.

Posted by: Seeing Eye Chick | March 1, 2011 11:32 AM

I have no idea who Seeing Eye Chick is, but the only response I can come up with is, "Amen, sister."

One secret to great home brew beer

Like many scientific breakthroughs, I've accidentally stumbled upon something that seems to drastically improve home brewed beer. It turns out to be something that is simple in theory, but very difficult in practice.

The tale of my discover goes thusly:

A couple of weeks ago my wife determined that she was sick and tired of the mess that I've made of our spare room, which she has so kindly allowed me to take over as my nanobrewery.

Of course, my first duty was to begin sorting through all my bottles which were scattered about rather haphazardly. Hidden under a desk to shield them from light (if you aren't aware, UV light is bad for beer - it breaks down hop oil and is responsible for the skunky aroma some beers get), I discovered three unlabeled one litre pot-stopper bottles. One contained a thick, black brew I easily identified as a stout I brewed last March. The other two contained what looked like light ales, but I have no idea which ones, since I've brewed about a dozen batches of "lighter" ales since I started this hobby in January of 2010.

My friend Lee came over, and as soon as I mentioned that I had a couple of mystery bottles, he demanded that we immediately open one of them to see what elixir was contained within. (Note: he's a British ex-pat, and so he has no compunction whatsoever of drinking a room temperature beer.) So to satisfy my friend's curiosity, I grabbed a couple of full pint glasses and pressed open the plastic cap on the bottle. It jumped open with a pleasantly loud "thump", and I poured out the contents into the two glasses. It was perfectly clear and beautifully carbonated, looking like a store-bought beverage crafted at a professional brewery.

We took a drink, and, all modesty aside (modesty? I've heard of it!), it was one of the best beers I've ever tasted. It turns out that bottle was from the third beer I ever brewed up, which was bottled last March: a honey blonde ale. What was surprising was that the rest of the batch (which wound up being drank within three weeks of the date I bottled it) had never fully carbonated. But over 10 months of aging, it had carbed up perfectly, and the flavour had become incredibly complex, with a strong, but not overpowering honey taste.

So the secret seems to be: age, age, age. Basically, you need to bottle or keg your beer and don't drink it for a long time. If you love beer the way I do, you realize how futile a task waiting can be!

NOTE: Okay, so I can't really take credit for this discovery - two of the most common rules about homebrewing I've found on many beer forums are: 1) Sanitize and 2) Be patient (let it age!) But who doesn't love adding their own anecdotal evidence to a body of data? Besides, the volume of posts on beer has been disappointingly sparse on this blog so far, so I had to do something to rectify the situation!

Also, Brew Your Own magazine has an interesting article, "The Effects of Storage Conditions on Homebrew Quality", in their current issue, stressing that how you store your aging beer is also very important. Unfortunately, the article isn't available online. Essentially, the point seems to be that aging beer in a fridge or dark, cool place (like a cellar) with a stable temperature is the best way to either maintain or improve flavour over time. A location with variable temperatures seems to negatively effect the taste of beer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back to the grind

I was quite surprised tonight when I logged in and realized it's been three weeks since I posted anything! That (along with a long-winded comment over at George's site I spent my lunch hour on) prompted me to post something that's been sitting in my inbox as a reminder to make a comment on (I often email things of interest to myself - sadly, they rarely seem to actually make it onto the blog).

Anyways, over at Pharyngula, PZ posted a link to Paula Kirby's Feb. 15th column on "Faith - the ultimate tyranny." I recommend reading the column, but I'd rather focus on one comment left over there:

This piece sounds less like a cry for freedom and more like a rant against authority. For people like Paula, a rule by definition is a bad rule (which amusingly enough is itself a rule). They consider concepts like obedience to be abhorant by their very nature. And througout this rant about the follies of submitting oneself to the tyrany of religion, Paula misses the whole point of freedom.

Freedom is not the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want without any consequences. If my thoughts, words, and actions never affect the nature of an outcome, then I am a slave to that outcome because I have no way of altering it.

On the contrary, freedom allows individuals to know what the choices are, to know what the consequences of those choices are, and to have the confidence that choosing a particular choice will result in its corresponding consequence. Thus freedom permits an act of free will to alter the outcome.

Religion concerns itself with the nature of the God to Human relationship. It teaches that certain thoughts, words, and actions bring us closer to God or distance us from God. Religion shows that we all have the freedom to seek God or to reject God. By rejecting the authority of God to give us a choice that is articulated via religion, we reject our own freedom.


This comment is a great example of a Christian is so close to "getting it," but they missed the mark because their allegiance to their Great Lawmaker must take precedence over everything else.

Most atheists (or most people, for that matter) don't consider obedience to be "abhorrent." Otherwise, how could society even function? Not all atheists are anarchists (nor are all anarchists atheists). However, what many atheists (not all of them, either) consider bad, or at least negligent, is mindless obedience. The idea that we should behave a certain way because it was decreed upon us from on high, that our every choice must be monitored without any justification or examination of why that must be, is generally undesirable to most freethinkers. We're no longer children - we can understand why a certain act might be considered wrong or right if it is explained to us. "Because I'm the God and what I say goes" should never be a good enough reason, in the same way a child should never let a parent off the hook for an explanation when they say "because I'm the mother/father, that's why!"

The idea that "freedom is the ability to do what I want whenever I want without any consequences" is a total strawman argument. Few atheists would argue that there is such thing as a consequence-free action or decision. Instead, what a belief in God does is take away some of the thought process that goes into decision-making. It creates a cognitive shortcut by making the decision maker more worried about what God would think of a certain action than what the actual, real-world consequences that would occur. Instead of actually thinking through what would happen if a person were to take a certain action, the desire to turn choices into black and white options, for fear of being condemned for making the wrong decision can become the major impetus behind the final decision that gets made. This can actually prevent people from learning how to think critically about their situation, instead having them hobbled by expecting to always be told how to make their decisions.

This is one of the myriad reasons why I eventually left Chrisitianity: I slowly discovered that what the Bible had to say affected very few of the decisions that I had to make day-to-day in my life. The Achilles heel of many beliefs is irrelevancy; once you realize that there's many more important things to think about while making a decision in life than whether a deity approves or not, it's easy to toss the Bible aside and begin focus on sorting through the shades of grey that make up the real world.